Harriet Vickers: David Hockney’s crusade against tobacco regulation

Harriet VickersDavid Hockney’s one-man crusade against tobacco regulation has struck again. Fresh off the back of critical acclaim for his use of an iPad to capture the Yorkshire landscape, he’s used his new artistic tool to create an image protesting against the “anti-smoking fanatics,” and the Guardian have put it on their home page.

It reads: “LIFE IS A KILLER. WE ALL GET A LIFETIME. There is only now. This is the case against the anti-smoking fanatics and the doctors and bossy boots etc. etc. Who are busy trying their best to make everything DULLER.”

He also used his recent exhibition for another small pro-smoking plug, creating an ashtray for the Royal Academy gift shop.

A personal image from one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century must be a hard thing not to publish, although this becomes even less surprising given Hockney’s frankly bonkers views on the smoking ban that the Guardian put out a few years back. This was, according to him, “the most grotesque piece of social engineering” that meant “people will stay at home and do drugs instead – legal and illegal.”

Already a study’s shown that in the year after the ban there were 1200 fewer emergency admissions for myocardial infarction. I’ve not seen anything showing drug use has gone up and, particularly given Hockney’s assertion that the evidence against smoking is void because he, his brother and four celebrities who smoke and aren’t dead, I’m not holding my breath.

When it comes to art, and publicity, Hockney is clearly a master. When it comes to public health he’s nonsensical, stubbornly refusing to see the harm in his peddling. I’d really rather not see his nutty arguments on the front page of a broadsheet (AGAIN), whether they’re beautifully drawn or not.

Harriet Vickers is multimedia assistant, BMJ.